|Team Flexifitness in GE 2014 - (Left to Right) Coach Tan, Coach Rameshon, Xu Pei Hua, Emma Oh, Andrew Oh, Ewan Oh, Helen Toh, Ethan Oh, Coach Sumathy, Divya and Saranniya|
I spoke to Dr Ansgar, 48, a dentist by profession, and an associate professor in NUS, on running and he told me that he took up running when he was young. I also found out he has been running from the past until now. He is very happy with his passion, just like how I am happy with running. I told him that I took up running when I met my school mate by the name of Ow Kok Meng who persistently called me to train in running. At that time, I did not value running.
I was not that interested in running at first as my interest at that time was soccer. It was only when I reached secondary 3 that I took up running seriously. Running instilled a kind of discipline that my academic studies was not able to give. My internal discipline increased over time. It was because of this that I was able to resist many distractions. I came in 6th individual in National Schools' Cross-Country Race. In 1981, I was supposed to come in top 3 but my injury at my knee area made things difficult that I came in 6th, instead. In the heats, I did 16min 02sec for the 4.8km race. In the finals, I did the 15min 56sec for the same distance.
Over time, I wanted to be a Physical Education teacher. The first student that I started talking about running was Xu Pei Hua who was studying in Dunearn Secondary School. At that time, Pei Hua was just 12 years of age. I was doing my teaching practice at that time. In 6 months, I was able to form 6 teams of runners, a total of 36 runners. We won the A Division (under 18 years old) National Schools' Cross-Country Race. We were the champions.
When I left Dunearn Secondary School, the school's captain was still following my training programme for himself and the rest of the team. Xu Pei Hua came in 3rd individual when she was in secondary two.
When Pei Hua was in secondary 3 and when Helen Toh was in secondary 4, Dunearn Secondary emerged as champions in the under 17 girl's team event. It is now very rare to see any government school winning or even coming in top 8 in the team event for the National Schools' Cross-Country Race. In the past, the government schools were able to compete and do well with autonomous school and independent schools. Several government schools were well known, like Jurong Secondary, Bartley Secondary, Chankat Changi Secondary, Henderson School, Dunearn Secondary plus other government schools were well known. It is a sad thing that there is no government schools winning the championship for several years for under 14, under 17 and under 20 years of age for both male and female categories.
Anyway, coming back to the story of Helen Toh and Xu Pei Hua, I maintained contact with both of them for some years. Over time, as I was seriously training for the marathon race, I started cutting contact with the world, as I was too focused in bringing my timing for my marathon time down down. I did 2hr 24min 22 sec in 1995 in South East Asian Games marathon race. From 1995, I started to focus my attention to coaching. I stopped training seriously.
After successfully getting 12 gold medals for my school teams in National Schools' Cross-Country Races, over the years, I finally decided to leave my last school, Hwa Chong Institution (college section) to reach out to many people outside to run faster in 2.4km to the marathon race.
Over time, I met Xu Pei Hua and Helen Toh again. They maintained contact with me. After some time, to my surprise, they started back to train for 10km and half-marathon. Recently, they took up running again and has not stopped running ever since.
Today, in Great Eastern Run, Helen Toh did 2hr 36min in half-marathon and Xu Pei Hua did 53min 58sec for the 10km race. Helen Toh's husband, Andrew Oh, was there to support Helen in the race. For Pei Hua, it was a personal best time. Earlier on, her personal best time was 58min and she has been coming for our training despite working hard to complete her PHD studies that she is doing, currently. My wife Sumathy did 2hr 29min for the half-marathon race. I was there to support my wife in the race.
Both my wife and Helen are planning to run a marathon in future. We are planning overseas race instead of Stanchart marathon race as it has split start and it takes gun time as official time in year 2013.
Saranniya, our sports writer, has told me that she is keen in writing on Pei Hua's experience in running and doing a personal best time in the Great Eastern Race. My answer to the former was, " Why not!". Please stay tuned to read on this girl who has been an avid runner all her life. I am very happy to see her and post the interview in my blog as she has great values of respect, discipline, selfless, filial piety, loyalty and above all, humility, besides liking running.